EU agrees to spend €7.3bn of budget on jobs and growth
EUROPEAN finance ministers have agreed to provide an extra €7.3bn for this year's EU budget to be used for growth and job creation for young people.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said ministers had reached what he called a "very significant political decision" at a meeting of European Finance ministers yesterday in Brussels to amend the 2013 budget.
The budget talks are linked by the European Parliament to the wider negotiations on a multi-annual EU budget for the next seven years.
Mr Noonan also said there had been considerable support from ministers for depositors with more than €100,000 to be at the end of a hierarchy of creditors who would suffer losses in the event of a bank being wound down.
Under an Irish presidency proposal, wealthy depositors would be the last in the line to be hit, after senior bond holders.
Mr Noonan admitted some ministers, however, had reservations.
"The political direction will provide us with a sound basis for further work over the coming weeks. My intention is to press ahead towards reaching agreement on our June meeting," he said.
European Union finance ministers also gave the green light to start talks with Switzerland, Liechtenstein and three other countries on new rules for swapping bank account information, officials said.
The talks had long been opposed by EU members Luxembourg and Austria, which were seeking to defend their own bank secrecy rules, but their finance ministers dropped those objections yesterday.
"Ministers have adopted a negotiating mandate on (the) savings tax with Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino," said one EU official. The basis of the talks with Switzerland will be the EU savings tax directive.
By giving the European Commission the go-ahead to negotiate with Switzerland, EU finance ministers hope to push for the same rules to be applied to Switzerland as would be applicable to Austria and the wider European Union.
A spokesman for Switzerland's department of finance underscored the country's willingness to co-operate.
"Back in 2009, Switzerland had already declared its willingness in principle to discuss extending the EU savings tax agreement so as to close loopholes," said the spokesman.
"In its assessment of future frameworks, Switzerland will use developments in important international financial centres outside the EU in addition to developments in the EU."
Austria's support is a symbolically important gesture that takes it closer to ending its own bank secrecy for foreigners. (Additional reporting, Reuters)